Updated at 6:16 p.m.
U.S. Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and U.S. Rep. Becca Balint, D-Vt., have received their first committee assignments.
Welch has been assigned seats on four high-profile Senate committees, including the Agriculture, Commerce, Judiciary and Rules committees.
Balint will serve on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, her office confirmed Thursday, and more assignments will likely be announced in the coming days.
The first-term representative’s committee assignments, along with those of the rest of the U.S. House, have been held up for weeks largely due to a historic battle over the House speakership, which has delayed the chamber from beginning its legislative work.
Welch’s assignments also come after weeks in waiting, as Senate leadership hammered out proper partisan breakdowns of each committee in a narrowly divided chamber. Welch said Thursday in a written statement that his new roles “position me to keep fighting for the things that matter to Vermonters: strengthening our rural communities and agricultural traditions, lowering the cost of living, and protecting our democracy.”
“These are issues I've championed throughout my career, and we’ve made real progress to cut costs for families, strengthen our infrastructure, and protect our environment,” Welch said. “There’s more to be done, and I’m ready to get to work.”
Welch is a first-term senator, but he came into the chamber in January with some clout, having served as Vermont’s sole member of the U.S. House for 16 years. With his committee assignments, he will have a role in crafting legislation and conducting hearings on subjects ranging from rural and agricultural development, to transportation and climate change, to civil liberties and the criminal justice system, to election security and voting rights and more.
Upon his swearing in, Welch replaced U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who retired after a historic 48-year career. Welch assumes another of his predecessor’s seats by joining the judiciary committee, which Leahy served on, and chaired, for many years. The assignment is high-profile: Committee members hold a key role in shaping the nation’s federal courts, hearing and confirming presidential nominations to federal benches, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
With his seat on the agriculture committee, Welch will continue another Leahy legacy. The retired senator spent years on the committee, and eventually helmed it, crafting national organics standards, leading on forest conservation efforts and Lake Champlain cleanup, establishing a nationwide Farm to School program, overseeing an expansion of SNAP benefits and negotiating numerous Farm Bills.
On the agriculture committee, Welch will have a key role in crafting legislation that impacts Vermont’s dairy industry — including this year’s federal Farm Bill, an omnibus bill that is renewed every five years.
Welch has advocated for the dairy industry throughout his time as a member of the House, and in his first week in Vermont as a senator convened a panel of dairy industry leaders in St. Albans. On Friday, he is scheduled to visit Corse Farm Dairy, a small organic dairy farm in southern Vermont, alongside USDA Undersecretary Jennifer Moffitt.
News of Welch’s assignment to the agriculture committee was first broken on Wednesday by Politico Pro. The outlet reported that fellow first-term Democrat, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, is also slated to join the committee, making the party breakdown 12:11. The left-leaning new members are bound to bring to the committee table a renewed focus on agriculture’s climate impact, corporate consolidation and social programs.
Balint landed her top pick with her assignment to the oversight committee.
“It would be an absolute dream come true to work alongside Jamie Raskin,” she told VTDigger in early January, referring to the Maryland representative and the committee’s ranking Democrat.
Balint’s assignment mirrors that of Welch, her predecessor in the House. Welch served on the House Oversight Committee beginning in 2007.
Balint also told VTDigger earlier this month that she’d like to be assigned to the agriculture and financial services committees in order to have a hand in crafting this year’s Farm Bill, as well as housing and consumer protection legislation.
“Honestly, what I've learned from being in the Legislature is every committee has consequential work,” Balint said in early January. “So as much as I would like to be able to be either on financial services or ag or oversight, wherever I land, I know that I can make a difference.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the year Peter Welch joined the House Oversight Committee.
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